Climate forum hits stumbling block

From left: The Solomon Islands' Manasseh Sogavare, Australia's Tony Abbott and Papua New Guinea's Peter O'Neill.
From left: The Solomon Islands' Manasseh Sogavare, Australia's Tony Abbott and Papua New Guinea's Peter O'Neill.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PORT MORESBY • Pacific island leaders have agreed to disagree on how to tackle climate change, after Australia and New Zealand blocked a bid from low-lying island nations for a tougher global target.

Problems with negotiations behind closed doors at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby were evident in the official communique, released yesterday.

The 16-nation group consists mainly of small island nations most susceptible to rising sea levels. They wanted to send a clear message to climate talks in Paris in December that the average global warming should be limited to 1.5 deg C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

However, the UN mandate is for no more than a 2.0-degree rise and the stumbling block at the conference was the refusal of Australia and New Zealand to commit to the lower number.

The carefully worded communique noted the Pacific Island states were among "the most vulnerable and least able to adapt and to respond" to the consequences of climate change. "It's not the best outcome that we would have liked," Kiribati President Anote Tong said.

Many of the island states are barely 2m above sea level. Ahead of the meeting, the leaders of the group's six smallest members said the Paris talks were the last chance for the world to reach an agreement that could save their vulnerable island nations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Climate forum hits stumbling block'. Print Edition | Subscribe